Mount Kilimanjaro

We were awakened at 12am with the usual hot drinks, got dressed and had a light snack. We left for the summit at 1am. It was a moonless night, so everyone had headlamps to light their way. Looking up the mountain I saw a stream of lights winding up the mountain ahead of us. Many people had started much earlier. Guides Renatus and Nicholas set a fast pace up the mountain; we passed many people as we gained altitude on the steep, irregular trail. For much of the way we were maintaining a one step per breath pace.

At approximately 18,500' my back was hurting every time I had to take a long step up with my right foot. I began to worry if I continued to the summit I would be spending the next 5 weeks of our Africa travels with back pain. Nicholas must have noticed my plight and offered to carry my day pack. This time I swallowed my pride and accepted. The lightened load made a big difference. A short time later, Kendal turned her pack over to Renatus, while Arthur continued to carry his own. I had noted neither guide brought a pack; perhaps they anticipated the possibility of taking ours. With my lightened load, I was proceeding at a rate of two breaths for every step up the very steep slope. Near the summit of Everest, climbers talk of taking four breaths per step; two breaths per step already seems maddeningly slow.